The past few weeks we have all seen an increase in mental tension, anxiety, and fear. The COVID-19 virus is a crisis unlike anything most people have experienced – ever!
News stories and posts on social media flood your awareness with the mind-polluting toxicities of worry, anxiety, and panic about what the next few weeks will hold for cities, nations, and individuals. It’s nearly impossible not to get caught up in the rip current of uncertainty, negativity, and doubt that drags you into the bubble of worst-case scenario thinking.
These times can feel overwhelming. But gratefully, we have a mind-body practice that is extremely valuable during these kinds of crises: meditation.
Yes, meditation is a good way to relax and discover your higher self, but I am happy to tell you that meditation is far more than just a way to relax. It has profound benefits that will help you navigate the COVID-19 outbreak and other similarly challenging times. Let’s explore each in some detail.
Meditation Manages and Reduces Stress and Anxiety
The most obvious benefits to meditation is that it suppresses the fight-or-flight response of your nervous system. This situation can feel like a real-time threat to your health, happiness, and way of life. Looking at the spread of the virus from China, to Europe, and into the United States is enough to raise anyone’s chronic stress levels from mild to full-blown. It’s definitely a troubling situation that causes all sorts of reactions within your body, like:
- Heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rises
- Stress chemicals (adrenaline and cortisol) are released into the bloodstream
- Muscle tension increases
- Thoughts are scattered and without focus
- Emotions become harder to manage
You may feel you are one news story away from a full-blown breakdown. If you’ve felt like this recently, rest assured, you are not alone. The uncertainty of situations like this can be exhausting.
The good news is that meditation is a powerful antidote to this prolonged stress response. Each time you sit down and close your eyes to meditate:
- Your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration lower
- Your endocrine system normalizes and relaxes
- Muscle tension is released – freeing up more energy into your system to heal and renew
- Your thought traffic begins to slow down, emotional tensions start to level out, and you can see things more clearly
The beautiful thing is that this reversal of the stress response happens to some degree every time you meditate. The great news is that the more regularly you practice meditation, the more your nervous system learns to stay calm more of the time, so stressful situations don’t hit you so hard. You can get there!
Meditation Helps to Strengthen Your Immunity
Knowing that the COVID-19 virus is in the environment, it’s important to make sure that your immune system is functioning at the highest level possible. You can help support your immune function in several ways including eating wholesome, nourishing foods, getting enough sleep each night, exercising regularly, and consuming supplements or foods rich in antioxidants. However, in addition to these steps, practicing meditation can have a powerful immune-boosting effect. This happens in three different ways:
- First, when the stress response moves bodily energy reserves to help you survive a threatening situation, energy is pulled away from the immune system, thereby opening the door to a host of bacteria, toxins, viruses, and other illnesses. During meditation, you activate the restful awareness response of your nervous system, which restores a homeostasis balance, which then strengthens your immune system. When you aren’t fighting or fleeing, your immune system has more energy to do its job.
- Second, research has begun to show that meditation practice affects the expression of genes that positively influence the immune system. They have demonstrated that meditation practice helps to reduce the levels of inflammatory genes, which leads to a quicker recovery from stressful situations. Meditation literally “switches on” genes that support health, wellness and balance within.
- Third, meditation activates your body’s innate healing system. The opposite of the fight-or-flight response is the rest-and-digest mode in which your system activates its own inner medicine cabinet and taps into its ability to heal, restore, and return to balance. When it’s not bogged down with “war” your mind-body system can access its self-correcting and healing mechanisms.
Meditation Builds Compassion
Whether through a simple mantra, mindfulness practice, or a more specific technique, regular meditation helps you explore expanded states of compassion, kindness, and love (I have seen it with myself and clients). As your mind begins to settle, the perceived boundaries between yourself and others start to soften. You recognize that we all share things in common; everyone has loved, laughed, felt pain, and suffered. You’re able to feel the suffering of others as well as your desire to relieve it. Your ego is more willing to take a back seat as you find opportunities to serve and heal others. Especially in challenging times such as these, learning to care for others, to offer support, a helping hand, or ear to listen helps you to feel more fulfilled by serving others. The more regular you become in your meditation practice, the more drawn you are to help others in whatever way you can. In addition, you can look for the good in difficult situations and find ways to stay hopeful, positive, and optimistic amid the chaos and confusion.
Meditation Levels-Up Your Consciousness
When you find yourself caught up in a frightening situation, it can often feel overwhelming. This is because fear, worry, and anxiety resonate within a state of consciousness that keeps you trapped. Everything you experience is filtered through the lens of fear, making the world appear terrifying, desperate, and hopeless.
The good news is that this fearful state is only one of seven biological responses your nervous system is capable of. Deepak Chopra says it best…you are hard-wired to experience the full range conscious responses including:
- Restful awareness
With each level of response of your nervous system, your perception of the world changes—reality is different in different states of consciousness. So, if you want to perceive your current situation differently, you must raise your level of consciousness. The mindset and worldview of this virus is deeply rooted in the fight-or-flight and reactive responses of your nervous system. If you wish to no longer be frightened by words like quarantine, self-isolation, and social distancing, you must learn to get to the level of consciousness in which those words lose all meaning and the ability to trigger a fearful reaction within you.
Meditation is a way to evolve deeper into consciousness. With regular practice, your awareness expands, allowing you to gradually ascend the ladder of higher consciousness. As you do, you experience ever-increasing states of peace, harmony, joy, fulfillment, wholeness, and love. By practicing meditation, you’re not just benefitting yourself, you’re helping to bring healing to the entire world.
So, if you’re feeling anxious and helpless with all of this, know that through the practice of meditation, you will have more power to affect healing, transformation, and change than you could imagine. And if you haven’t learned to meditate, there may never be a better time to learn than now.
I am always here to be your teacher! Click here if you are interested.